Sharon Pearl, Abby Michaleski, Frank Kohn and Mina Mark lead songs and percussion at P'Nai Or in West Mt. Airy. (Photo by Norman Pearl)

Sharon Pearl, Abby Michaleski, Frank Kohn and Mina Mark lead songs and percussion at P’Nai Or in West Mt. Airy. (Photo by Norman Pearl)

by Tobie Hoffman

Singing! Sharing! Learning! Movement! Inclusive language! Celebration! Depth!

Every fall, in Summit Church’s Fellowship Hall in West Mt. Airy, a High Holiday gathering unlike anything you may have ever experienced unfolds again, as P’Nai Or — the Northwest Philadelphia Jewish renewal congregation whose name means “Faces of Light” — offers High Holiday services of a different stripe to seekers of all backgrounds.

“The High Holidays at P’Nai Or are Jewish renewal at its best,” said Rabbi Marcia Prager who co-leads these festive gatherings, along with many talented P’Nai Or members and a great team of musicians. “We blend traditional liturgy with uplifting heart-opening poetic translations so that Hebrew and English prayers flow intertwined with each other.

“The music is profound — deep, high and sweet in a way that caresses your soul. And of course, everyone is included. There is passionate prayer, quiet meditation, opportunities to reflect and do some pretty deep inner work, and also time to share, be creative and even make some new friends.”

P’Nai Or High Holidays are a great introduction to the themes of this season in the Jewish year and to different styles and approaches to these themes that can make them even more powerful and personally relevant.

“If you have grown past thinking of God as a judgmental king on a throne, and are ready for some of the more potent imagery that grows out of the Jewish mystical tradition, P’nai Or will be a refreshing change for you too,” said Abby Michaleski, who came to P’nai Or after trying many different congregations.

“I needed a more dynamic, more integrated way of understanding the creative life-force that I experience in the world and in my life. P’nai Or High Holidays takes the traditional liturgy and imagery and makes it soar in a way that is resonant with my experience. Boy, was this a wow.”

The themes of celebrating life and re-aligning with the power that promotes goodness are strong currents at these gatherings. The High Holidays invite us to work together for forgiveness, compassion and Shalom, which means wholeness, fulfillment and perfection, as well as peace.

All the songs, all the prayers and all the inner work we do helps us heal our inner hurts and rededicate ourselves to be the best we can be, internally, in our relationships and in the world. We welcome you:

• If you are Jewish but don’t know what that means, you are welcome.

• Whether or not you believe in God, or if you struggle with your beliefs, or even if you’re not sure what to believe, you are welcome.

• If you have become disconnected from your Jewish roots, no matter how far back they may go, you are welcome.

• If you are not Jewish, but something in you loves something about Judaism, you are welcome.

• If you have traversed other spiritual paths and are still seeking spiritual nourishment and community, you are welcome.

• If you love being Jewish and are searching for something deeper, you are welcome!

Our upcoming schedule includes Erev Rosh Hashanah on Sept. 13, Sunday evening, 6-7:30 p.m. A short festive gathering for the whole community: singing, candle lighting and apples and honey.

• Rosh Hashanah: morning services on both days of Rosh Hashanah on Sept. 14 and 15, Monday and Tuesday, 10 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. A vegetarian dairy potluck lunch follows each day.

• Yom Kippur Evening Service Kol Nidre on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 6-9 p.m. Day service through Havdala and N’eila on Wednesday, Sept 23. All day and evening, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. A gala vegetarian/dairy potluck breakfast follows.

The Community Wing of Summit Church is at 6757 Greene St. in West Mt. Airy, one block from Lincoln Drive. P’Nai Or services are in Fellowship Hall. Come in through the Greene Street entrance and up the stairs.

For more information, visit or e-mail